Images of starving African children move us, but what about those dying spiritually in Britain, asks Johnny Kinch
As Johnny Kinch watches emotional TV appeals for starving children in Africa, his heart is stirred much closer to home. Johnny’s passion isn’t for the fields of Malawi or the rubbish dumps of Calcutta – rather the spiritual slums of Britain where the masses seem blind to the fact that they have turned their backs on God.
The need might not be as obvious, a lot of churches might not even realise it’s there, but for Johnny, it has consumed his life. Sunday Night Live, the organisation he formed almost five years ago, enables churches to take over big name coffee shops for a few hours a week and share the gospel in a contemporary way.
And although Johnny is enjoying the journey – SNL is now represented in 45 towns and cities – he takes the mandate extremely seriously.
“In the UK – like it or not – we are a spiritually third world nation,” he says.
“I watch adverts on TV about Africa that make me sick to the core. It’s completely ridiculous that children are starving in this day and age and I’m pleased we can help such projects, but let’s not forget Great Britain.
“What are we, as Christians and the Church, doing for the spiritually starving adults and children in our country? I believe God looks at countries like the UK and then across Europe and America and sees people who are wasting away spiritually and bareboned.
“Nearly every church I know gives money to the third world and sends funds to missionaries overseas, but it’s like some of them miss the elephant in the room that is the UK. “It’s a frightening prospect when you think about it. We see fat people and think that obesity is a big issue but we forget that people are spiritually dying inside – something we miss even though it’s staring us in the face.”
An incredible 220,000 people have visited Sunday Night Live in the last fourand- a-half years. Johnny hopes there will be 220 active venues in the next three years while there are plans to expand into Europe and America.
A typical Sunday Night Live includes live music, interviews and a short, unthreatening gospel presentation.
“We’re making an impact, there’s no doubt about that,” says Johnny.
“We get more un-churched people through our doors than most churches, and we’ve got to be pleased with that. Alpha has done a phenomenal job at introducing people to faith and we see Sunday Night Live as something similar, although we are different in our approach.
“We are able to get the gospel on the high street. People can walk into Costa or Starbucks and see what the church and Christianity is all about. It’s a brilliant way for the church to get out of its four walls and present the gospel in an environment that people will be comfortable with.
“I do this because I had a dramatic conversion myself. Jesus Christ completely changed my life from night to day and I want to give people the opportunity to hear about Jesus.
“I’m a believer that one of the most unused resources in the church is the testimony. We encourage people to tell their stories and people’s lives are changed by the power of the gospel.”
And with Christmas round the corner, Johnny is hoping churches will make an extra impact.
He adds: “We encourage churches to do something special at Christmas, it’s the perfect time to get the gospel out there and to remind people that there is a reason for the season.
“We like to go traditional at Christmas. The rest of the year we’re quite modern with our live entertainment and various bands but at Christmas we feel that the traditional approach works best, so we might get gospel choirs and traditional hymns into our events.
“We’ll also interview someone about their faith and find out just how a baby born 2,000 years ago has changed their life. In the midst of consumerism, the story of Christ’s birth is a great opportunity for church to meet world, and that’s really what it’s all about.”
Johnny had battled drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, and had even served time in prison for violence, before his dramatic encounter with Jesus. Today he is a happily married man, a proud father and a committed Christian.
He recalled the first time a friend took him to church. “When they opened the doors it was like when they open the doors of the plane when you’re on holiday,” he said. “The change in atmosphere was that noticeable. The preacher spoke on freedom and Jesus.
“I was blown away, but was scared. I went home and just cried.”
After more persuasion from his friend, Johnny went back to church and gave God an ultimatum.
“I gave God ten days to change my life and that’s what he did,” he says. “I was able to stop drinking, taking drugs and gambling.”